An interesting case of art ownership and moral rights is taking place in Costa Rica at the moment. The new 2,000 colones bill will enter into circulation soon. However, there has been a dispute because the author of the portrait of educator Mauro Fernández (pictured) has claimed that he was never asked for permission to use his painting in the bills.

The portrait was painted by artist Guillermo Cubero in an undisclosed date , but the work has been owned by the National Museum of Costa Rica for the last 25 years. The Central Bank of Costa Rica is the only financial institution with permission to issue currency, and they requested the use of the portrait to the current owners, but not to the author.

This is an interesting case, at least from my perspective, as I am not entirely sure about the copyright of a paining once it has been sold, so if anyone knows what happens I would be interested to hear their opinion. If I recall correctly, copyright is transferred with the painting without the need of a further contract or licence grant. However, moral rights in Costa Rica are inalienable, so the author would still remain the right to be identified as the author of the work.

Apparently, the issue is being solved amicably, the Central Bank will call a press conference and recognise the painter. It is possible that he was not interested in the monetary aspects, but wanted to make a moral argument.

Wouldn’t it be sort of deliciously ironic if all money was infringing copyright?



Marshal · May 2, 2010 at 8:04 pm

El problema del caso es que el pintor nunca vendió la obra, solamente la dejo botada por lo que todavía tiene en su posesión todos sus derechos. El error fue del Museo de pensar que era de su patrimonio, ahí es donde el autor realmente pude ganar.

Dudo lo que dice la noticia, de que se resolvió sin dinero de por medio, pero bueno.

Y sería gracioso que lo indemnizaran con su propia obra XD


Mathias Klang · May 3, 2010 at 11:37 pm

In Sweden the rights are not transferred at a sale of the physical copy of a painting and the artist in your case must be asked for permission prior to making copies.

The interesting thing with your case would be attempting to work out the level of damages. If the money is circulated it is doubtful that it would be destroyed (before a long time) so the violation of copyright would occur purposely again and again.


cDave · May 4, 2010 at 11:18 am

I too thought copyright was not transferred with purchase of the original piece.

Studio Foglio makes it explicit in their eBay auctions with the following line "Auction is for the physical original art only, trademarks and copyright are NOT part of the sale of an original art piece"


    Andres · May 4, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Interesting! I really should look more into this, there is clearly scope for a journal article here.

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